Using a Balanced Approach to Finding Business Intelligence Solutions
BI Solutions - A balanced approach

Written by: Phil Husbands

My core interests and specialist expertise are in enterprise data strategy, data capability development and data-driven organisational change. My work focuses on building the operational and people-focused capabilities, which are essential for ensuring that data enables businesses to work more effectively, make better decisions and achieve their goals.
Using a Balanced Approach to Finding BI Solutions

Your business intelligence (BI) solutions are in place and your in-house experts are gaining real value from your technology. You’re well on your way to achieving your organisation’s goals with all the right information.

If you’re following the 4dBI framework you’ll know that successful BI solutions are those which continuously evolve, adapting to the ever-changing needs of your organisation. What you may also be realising is that success is the result of a very carefully planned, and equally important, BI balancing act.

As well as aligning your goals, processes, people and technology, there are numerous other elements to consider to get the most value from your BI solutions. Here’s three things to keep in mind to help you achieve a balanced approach to BI:

Inform the Right Decisions

There is no shortage of data available and it greatly influences the way an organisation makes its decisions. Despite this, it can be difficult to know how to use data in the right way.

To create effective BI solutions, it’s important to recognise that certain data is far more valuable than other data when it comes to your making decisions. For instance, if you ran a café, you may look at the buying patterns of your regular customers. You could then use this information to encourage repeat purchase with a targeted advertising campaign offering a discount on their favourite drink. Here, data surrounding ‘what’ and ‘when’ your customers purchased would present considerably greater value than data regarding your customer’s age, relationship status or hobbies.

Data should be used extensively to inform your business’s strategic decision-making, however it shouldn’t be the ‘be-all and end-all’ of it. The balance lies between the data itself, and the role that your understanding of the data plays in the decisions that are made. Data alone cannot be used solely to form the basis of what decisions your business makes. The decision-maker (he or she who interprets the data) also plays a key role. The real-time data concerning your customer’s favourite drinks shows you the facts about their purchase behaviours, but the way that data is interpreted enables you to think about why they are purchasing it. An espresso first thing on Monday morning will wake you up much quicker than a hot chocolate!

Capabilities and Correct Governance

Unless you ensure your teams have the right knowledge and understanding in place, they’re unlikely to be able to derive real value from BI. It’s crucial to create an environment where the full potential of your data, and your people, can flourish.

When we work with clients to establish BI strategies, we get the right people involved from the word go. We’ve found that creating people powered BI is the most viable way to spark enthusiasm and an ongoing commitment to any proposed changes. Investing in your people means you make the best use of their skill set, enabling a much more productive and empowered environment.

Empowerment allows your staff to gather information that can improve the way your business operates, however there can be too much of a good thing. When giving your staff access to information, it is critical that the correct governance is also in place. The last thing you need is to be arguments based on inaccurate and inconsistent reporting which didn’t comply with governance rules. Rather than giving your people ‘free reign’, ensure the right information is there to benefit your organisation and support proactive decision making. Get the balance right – you don’t want your people to feel restricted with tight limitations of the information they can access,  but you do need appropriate governance in place to make sure you comply with corporate policies and regulations.

Augmentation and Improvement

When followed correctly, the 4dBI method promotes a delivery lifecycle and an operating model that allows for lasting BI capabilities. In addition, when working in fast-paced, ever-changing environments, there’s a need to continuously update and improve your BI solutions.

To ensure they get value from your BI solutions your people must strike the balance between what is happening now, in the present, and what may happen in the future, to make effective data-driven decisions. Relying on current data will allow you to appeal to the ‘here and now’ customers – those who are buying early morning espressos in winter. Yet, as the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’ and so data that enables future planning and predictions, must also be considered – those who will be buying iced lattes on summer mornings.

Using data to identify early signs of future issues also means you’re able to see the bigger BI picture. In a previous post, I explored our concept of ‘pre-mortem KPIs’ which allow organisations to identify and prevent issues from happening instead of trying to rectify situations after problems have occurred. The combination of real-time information with future predictions is essential to the smooth-running of your business as it provides an integrated view, adding constructive value. The balance here is not allowing one to overshadow the other – both are equally important. Both can improve your business processes, enabling your BI solutions to evolve, giving you true value from your data and outcomes that meet your objectives.

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